This morning I’d like to tell you about a man named Simon. This is not a story about me, though I have the same name as Simon and many of the same faults.
Simon had a tough life, but not the worst life. His family was better off than some others, but not well off. His father had to work really hard to care for them. Simon didn’t get much education and when he was still young joined his father in the family fishing boat. He probably had dirty hands, dirty hair, scruffy beard, dirty rough clothes and smelled unpleasant. Simon was a rough guy who had a rough way of talking and acting.
Simon was strong, and brave. He could sail his 30-foot boat through a storm. He was married and worked hard to support his wife and children. He was shabby and vulgar. A man’s man, Simon was full of vigour and had a boisterous temper.
Simon knew he wasn’t the greatest of people, and every now and then would take off for a few days. He went to listen to a famous preacher and joined his following.
God used this rough, tough, smelly guy called Simon to change the world. God could do this because Simon was willing to walk away from his family and his job to become a disciple of Jesus.
Jesus was a working man just like Simon. He walked up to Simon and said follow me. Simon just dropped his work, left his nets and boat and family, and became a disciple.
When Simon became a disciple, it changed his life completely. If you become a disciple of Jesus, your life will be totally changed. Simon had no idea what was going to happen to him or to Jesus when he agreed to become a disciple. He had no idea how he would feed his wife and children. He had no idea where he would live. He had no idea he would be called Peter.
A disciple in Jesus’ day would follow their rabbi (which means teacher) wherever he went, learning from the rabbi’s teaching and being trained to do as the rabbi did. Basically, a disciple is a follower, but only if we take the term ‘follower’ literally. Becoming a disciple of Jesus is as simple as obeying his call to follow. Walk behind him in the dust, watch him closely, copy him.
Jesus said (Luke 6:40), “the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher.”
Perhaps the only thing Simon knew was how to follow.
I wonder if some people have come to believe you can be a “Christian” without being like Christ. That would be like being a follower who doesn’t follow.
How does that make any sense?
Imagine if Jesus had walked up to Simon and said, “Please don’t stop what you are doing. You don’t need to change. Just tell people you’re a Christian and I’m a good guy.”
Nobody really believes this is all it means to be a Christian. So why do some people live this way? We appear to have lost sight of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. The concept of being a disciple isn’t difficult to understand, but it affects everything.
The very first thing Simon did was drop his way of life and walk away from it all. He turned away, and that is what we call repentance. If you don’t turn away, you cannot follow. You cannot become a disciple unless you repent. There was really nothing particularly good about Simon’s life up to that point. Many people were probably much better than him.
Paul tells us (Romans 5:8), “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”
Before they become disciples, everyone is a sinner. We live in a society where everyone is in a competition. The thought that someone else has paid for our crimes is strange to most of us because it defies our natural way of thinking.
Being a disciple of Jesus is about following Jesus. It isn’t about obeying rules. It isn’t about performing ceremonies. You’ve heard many times already that it’s about developing a great relationship with Jesus. It’s about becoming like him. It’s very much about love.
True love is all about sacrifice for the sake of others: “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16) When we understand love in this light, it’s not difficult to understand that love for God and obedience to Jesus Christ cannot be separated. God’s love changes us from the inside out and redefines every aspect of our lives.
Simon remained a disciple for the rest of Jesus’ life, and then he became an apostle. He went out to teach others how to be disciples. This was the final instruction he received from Jesus.
Acts 1:8 – “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
We cannot follow Jesus as Simon did, walking along country lanes together. But we can follow Jesus still. Jesus is not dead. He is alive. He places within us the Holy Spirit. We can talk to him.
We see his example in the Scriptures. We copy his example. We see how Simon followed Jesus, and we copy his example. One of the first things Jesus did after Simon became a disciple was to visit Simon’s home. While there he healed Simon’s mother-in-law. Jesus showed by example and Simon later healed many people as Jesus had.
We also have the teaching of Jesus. Jesus taught his disciples in small groups and in large groups. He then showed them how to practise what he taught.
All of his teaching was so we could follow him and be disciples. It was all so that we could be like him. We read the Bible today to understand how to be better disciples. We read the Bible today to understand how to be like Jesus.
Why do we follow Jesus? Because we have faith in him. Because we believe he is the son of God and he is Lord.
While this is simple, it’s not easy. Faith in Jesus means believing that he is Lord.
“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
Do you ever think about what the word ‘Lord’ means? We might sometimes think of it as another name for God, but it’s actually a title. It refers to a master, owner, or a person who is in a position of authority. So take a minute to think this through: Do you really believe that Jesus is your master? Do you believe that he is your owner – that you actually belong to him?
Paul said, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20)
I have been called to be a disciple by Jesus, in just the same way that first Simon was called. You all have been called to be a disciple. He is still calling. He is calling to you.
Jesus is asking you to turn away from the world you were born into. Jesus is asking you to reject the lifestyle you grew up with. Jesus is saying to you that now is the time to turn away from the world towards him. If you are already a disciple, now is the time to reaffirm that you will be his disciple. If you haven’t yet decided, I invite you to decide now to follow Jesus.
If you are a follower of Jesus, it shouldn’t be a secret. But so that no one will feel singled out for deciding not to follow, we will not ask you to stand up. Make a firm decision in your mind. Determine in your heart to start or to restart following Jesus.
You are called to be a disciple. To be a disciple you must give up your own way.
Close your eyes while I pray. Everyone please close your eyes.